Projected starting XI
Rob Elliot; Paul Dummett, Ciaran Clark, Florian Lejune, DeAndre Yedlin; Jonjo Shelvey, Mikel Merino; Christian Atsu, Siem De Jong, Matt Ritchie; Dwight Gayle
How do you feel about your club's summer transfer business?
After frustration from a "slow start" to the window, I think fans are pleased with the signings we have made. Although I do believe fans were expecting more because our glorious owner Mike Ashley promised Rafa Benitiez every penny the club had. Fans went into this window expecting a spending spree similar to two years ago where NUFC purchased the likes of Florian Thauvin, Alexander Mitrovic and Georgino Wijnaldum. This as well as the fact that Chief Scout and French enthusiast, Graham Carr was removed from his position, giving Benitez complete control of transfers had fans expecting Newcastle to spend more than the £31million they have spent. All of the signings we have made have been under £13 million, but all of them have looked impressive in the preseason.
The issue with this window has nothing to do with the signings but the sense that Mike Ashley is once again not willing to invest in this club. Fans right now are frustrated that Newcastle did not want to meet the £13.4 million valuation for Arsenal's Lucas Perez, a cheap price in this inflated market for a player who fans believe would thrive under Benitez. Stories like this, as well as missing out on players such Andreas Samaris, Ruben Semedo, and William Carvalho have discouraged fans from thinking Newcastle has any money. These claims have been backed up by the fact that Rafa's only comments on the window are that he has missed out on targets he wants, and that in order to move forward we need to sell players. Players such as Massido Haidara and Emmanuel Riviere are on ridiculously high wages (#ThanksGrahamCarr) and refuse to take a salary cut to move on from the club. All in all, this window could have been better and could be better with the selling of players who Rafa wants out of here.
Are you happy with ownership? Elated? Cautiously optimistic? Furious?
Ashley has never been popular at Newcastle and this summer has done him no favors. In addition to what seems like a broken promise regarding transfers, it seems as if Ashley does not understand that Newcastle is a big club. He refuses to expand St. James' Park even though Newcastle has sold 45,000 season tickets and had to stop selling season tickets to leave room for single-game/away supporter tickets. Ashley still believes it is better to get bargain players than invest in proven talent, and is still very much a control freak when it comes to the club. Many fans are hoping and praying he sells the club so that NUFC can reach it's full potential.
What's the highest reasonable goal your team has and what needs to go right to get there?
Rafa wants to be the first team outside of the fabulously wealthy clubs to 40 points, and the only thing stopping him is injuries. Rafa has the tactics to deconstruct the team, but this team is relatively thin squad in terms of PL quality. We cannot afford to lose Rolando Aarons, Siem De Jong and others for multiple games if he wants to be the first to 40.
Who's a player on your team that neutrals might not know much about, but should become fans of?
Matt Ritchie was arguably one of our best players last season with 12 goals and 7 assists. He is an exciting quick winger who is excellent on the ball and loves to cut inside and take the shot or lay it off for a striker. Ritchie also is one of Newcastle's set-piece specialists, and he has the ability to score from many different dangerous positions. He has already had a wonderful preseason and his good form will definitely continue into the season.
Who will be your team's MVP this season, and why?
Jonjo Shelvey is hands down our best player on the pitch. He is solid defensively in midfield and has been the spark that begins the majority of Newcastle's attack. After a wonderful campaign last season, Shelvey has come back leaner, stronger, faster and hungry for EPL football. This season could see Shelvey being considered for the England World Cup squad, and he knows this. Expect him to dominate this season.
What do you think makes your team's fan culture better than any other team's?
The fans. We broke our season attendance record last year despite being dropped down a division. Let that sink in for a moment. You can only expect the same amount of dedication from the fans in our return to Premiership. They have already shown up and have been the dominant crowd at every preseason game so far. Geordies have a passion like no other fan base, and everybody knows this. Howay the Lads!
Main photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images